Kindling the Fire at Home & in the Community


F is for Feathered Friends

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am fascinated & in awe of most creatures with feathers. However, I have a special affinity for owls and hawks. For as long as I can remember they have been of great interest to me. When I started to study totem animals, familiars & animal guardians I realized that hawks and owls are most definitely totems of mine. Whenever I go on road trips, I always seem to notice hawks gliding on the wind above the vehicle, as if they’re watching over me. Usually it’s red-tails that make their presence known to me.

Probably before I was ever born, my grandma (dad’s mom) has collected Native American artifacts & trinkets. She has a curio cabinet that I watched fill with kachina dolls, soapstone animal figures and arrowheads over the years. In her livingroom she had a glass covered adobe village with tiny wooden ladders & little people dressed in traditional clothing and a number of other collectibles that were always fun to check out. The one thing that has always stood out to me though wasn’t any of those things. It was a painting of red-tailed hawks in flight above a beautiful forest and below the painting was a foot long cut out where a single red-tail feather is housed. Someday, I hope I get to hang that painting in my house. 

Barn owls often find me at night. More than just a few times, barn owls have flown over me close enough for me to feel the air rush by or landed right next to me. When I was living in temporary military housing waiting to move to Turkey in 2005, I saw barn owls 3 times prior to my move. Knowing now what I do about owls and what they symbolize, I should have prepared better for all of the changes that happened in just a short years time. Those owls were letting me know that change was a’coming!

I know that they’re both birds of prey, but even with as close as they’ve ventured, I’ve never been afraid, they have always been a comfort to me. Since I’m not a field mouse or a lizard, I think I’m safe from their razor sharp talons. I feel honored that they always find me and pay me visits.

Red-tail hawks are considered messengers & protectors. The red-tail hawk is known for its ability to soar & glide on the air currents. They are often seen resting on tree branches tracking down their prey. Both of these abilities are significant in that, if the hawk is your totem, they can teach you how to soar to great heights while staying grounded. It’s pretty widely accepted that they mate for life and despite their size, they are occasionally harassed by smaller birds who may want to invade their territories or use their nests. Those with hawk totems are known to be loyal & often deal with people who attack what they don’t understand about you or try to inhibit your ability to soar. What many don’t know about red-tail hawks is that while their beak is obviously a force to be reckoned with, their talons, especially their scaled leg are much more powerful. They are fearless and will take on a poisonous snake without hesitation. Once the snake is in their clutches, the hawk will tear its head off. This quality translates to those with hawk totems. While it’s good to be able to defend yourself, it’s advisable to use your ability to “tear someones head off” selectively. To many Native American tribes it represents leadership, deliberation, foresight & the ability to extend the vision of your life in the same way they extend their wings to a great width.

Owls bring with them omens, mystery & silent wisdom. The owl is a symbol of the feminine, the moon & the night. Because of it’s association to the moon, it also is said to have ties to fertility and seduction. Owls are nocturnal and because of that they have always had a sense of mystery surrounding them, as the night seems to have an aura of mystery surrounding it. To the ancient Greeks, owls were associated with the goddess Athena and were seen as a symbol of higher wisdom. They were the guardians of the Acropolis. No other bird has had so much myth & mystery surrounding it, as the owl. It seems as though every kind of people who have ever come in contact with it have a story about it. To the early Christian Gnostics, the owl is associated with Lilith, the first wife of Adam who refused to be subservient. To the Pawnee, the owl is a symbol of protection. To the Pueblo people, the owl is associated with the Skeleton Man, the god of death & spirit of fertility. To the Ojibwa, the owl symbolizes death & evil. Owls have keen eye sight, even in the darkest nights and can hear just as keenly. Those with owl totems can expect that they are able to hear what others choose not to say & see what is meant to be hidden. The intuitive nature of those with owl totems is often extremely advanced. Something unique to owls is that even with the expanse of their wings, they fly silently. This is something that those with owl totems practice as well. Remain silent & undetectable.

My owl totem is the barn owl so I wanted to talk specifically about them as well. They are known as the great hunters.They have heart shaped faces and their feathers are often primarily solid white. When seen from below, barn owls have a ghostly appearance. It’s because of this feature that the barn owl has earned the nickname of “Ghost Owl”. It also has an amazing sense of hearing, with the ability to use echo location when hunting. This translates to those with barn owls as totems because they seem to be more in tune with their inner voice and the ability to develop psychic abilities such as clairaudience with greater ease.

I find it especially interesting that I have both a nocturnal & diurnal bird totem and that they’re both “birds of prey”. They often hunt in the same fields without infringing on each others territory because they do so at opposite times. The hawk during the day & the owl at night. So unintentionally they work together. I feel like the qualities imbued on me by my bird totems compliment each other and have a significant bearing on how I view those qualities in myself and in others.

Do you identify with any bird totems? If so, do you feel the qualities they are most commonly associated with apply to you? Does that association influence your practices? Inquiring minds wanna know.